and floaters are a common complaint. As we get older, the
gel inside the eye, called the vitreous tends to liquefy.
This process is a normal part of the aging process of the
eye. When this liquefaction occurs, the vitreous tends to
shrink causing “floaters” – seen as little
black lines that move when you move your eye. They are usually
most noticeable when looking at a white background.
Occasionally, as the vitreous shrinks, it can pull on the
retina. This pulling stimulates the cells of the retina, called
photoreceptors, causing the flashes of light that you might
see. Occasionally the pulling can cause a hole or a tear in
the lining at the back of the eye, called the retina. If a
hole or tear develops in the retina, this can lead to fluid
leaking under the retina and a Retinal Detachment can develop.
Most of the patients who experience flashing lights or floaters
simply have changes in the vitreous with no damage to the
retina. In this case the condition is called “Posterior
Vitreous Detachment (PVD)”, and does not require any
treatment, simply monitoring for a short period to ensure
no holes or tears develop in the retina.
However, ALL patients with a PVD need an urgent examination
by an experienced eye surgeon, to ensure that is not a tear
in the retina. If the retina is torn urgent treatment is required
to prevent the retina from developing a detachment (Retinal
Detachment). The treatment usually consists of laser to the
retina to surround the hole or tear and is relatively easy
If the the retina has started detaching more invasive surgery
is usually required.